Through Fire is a new name, but its origins might be familiar to some. Guitarist Justin McCain founded Emphatic in 2004 in Omaha, Nebraska. Behind singles “Bounce” and “Get Paid,” the band started making waves with its second album, “Damage” (2011), appearing at festivals such as Rock on the Range and touring with Halestorm. Lineup changes in the ensuing years eventually left McCain as the only original member, and as 2015 drew to a close, he and his bandmates decided to wipe the slate clean and be reborn as Through Fire. Now signed to Sumerian Records, the “new” band is pushing its first single, “Stronger,” and gearing up for the release of its debut album—title and date TBA—as it tours the United States on the “Generation Doom” tour, with Otep, Lacey Sturm, September Mourning and Doll Skin. McCain recently called in from the road to talk to Live Metal’s Greg Maki about the band, the single, the tour and more.
LIVE METAL: So this band, Through Fire, kind of evolved from Emphatic. Was that a hard decision to change the name and kind of start over?
JUSTIN McCAIN: It’s a situation where we did Emphatic for so long. On this record, we just decided it’s a new thing. We’re, for all intents and purposes, a new band. I was the only original member of Emphatic, so it was the right time. We made that decision, and we’re very happy we did. Things are going great. We’re not forgetting the past by any means, but we’re looking forward to the future.
There were a bunch of lineup changes the last couple years of Emphatic. How long has this group—the people who make up Through Fire—how long have you been together as a band?
We’ve been playing together maybe two, three years, I think. Pat (Mussack), my drummer, has been with us for, I think, three, maybe four years now. But this group of guys all together, probably two, I’d say. Through Fire, we really just started pushing it the beginning of this year, so this is definitely new for us.
The band name, Through Fire, is that representative of what you guys have been through to get to this point?
Absolutely. That’s exactly what it is. We’ve been fighting for a long time, and life is hard sometimes. You’ve gotta face a lot of different obstacles, a lot of different challenges, and that’s to be said for whatever you do in life, whether it’s in the music business or anything else. For us, the name was just very fitting for what we’ve been through.
Was it hard to come up with the name? A lot of bands go through all kinds of possibilities before they settle on something they like.
It’s definitely a process, because you don’t want to just throw something at the wall and see if it sticks. There has to be some sort of meaning behind it. Then the flipside is, if you have a name that’s completely off the wall, you kind of create what it means yourself. There’s lots of different ways to look at it, lots of different perspectives. But we went with Through Fire, and Through Fire is born, so look out. (laughs)
The single you’ve released, “Stronger,” was originally written a few years ago. Has it changed since that time?
No, not really. The radio edit’s a little bit different. “Stronger’s” definitely been around for a while now, and I’m really happy that we just finally put it out. It’s one of those songs that our fans, along the way, have always wanted and we’ve never released. We want to give back to the fans, and we want to move forward and focus on the future of the new music. So we tried to balance everything and create the best of both worlds. I think “Stronger” was a great song to come out of the gates with.
Yeah, it’s the kind of song people can rally behind. It’s empowering. Was that what you were going for with that?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a song that can be a voice for everyday people. Like I said, life happens, and whether it’s the music business or any other field that someone’s in, there’s always obstacles you’ve gotta face and there’s always challenges. That song really represents moving forward no matter what.
Is it a good indication of what this band sounds like?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the rest of the record is very close in ways, but in other ways, there’s some surprises. There might be a song that’s a little bit heavier. There might be a song that’s a little bit more laid back. But yeah, I think that’s kind of hitting in the middle of the spectrum. There’s a couple different sides of us on the record, though.
The band is signed to Sumerian Records. How did that come about?
Long story. (laughs) But at the end of the day, it came down to, I sent the songs out to Sumerian, and they loved it, called me right away and took things from there, and we ended up signing a deal with them. We were talking to some other labels, too, but it just felt like Sumerian was the right home for this project. We just decided let’s do it. We did, and things are going great.
Nothing’s been out there yet about an album title or release date. Can you say anything about that at this point?
All I can say is there is definitely an official release date, and there is definitely an album title.
Will there be another song released anytime soon, or are you gonna keep pushing “Stronger?”
We’re gonna spend some time with “Stronger.” You never know how something’s gonna react. You never know how things are gonna play out. You can’t predict things. Fortunately, “Stronger’s” doing great at radio, and it’s continuing to climb, so we’re not gonna take our eye off the ball. We’re gonna keep focusing on that, and when the time’s right, we’ll definitely move to the second single.
How does starting a new band now compare to when you were starting out 10, 12 years ago?
I’d say there’s lots of differences, just from the way you kind of handle development of a career. Ten, 12 years ago, I’d say people bought more records. There was less of a social media presence. Just the scope of how things work today in comparison is a lot different. Now, you’re on your phones or your tablets, and you’re tweeting, Instagram and Facebook and stuff. I think in today’s world, there’s much more of a direct connection, a direct link with fans, which is awesome. It’s great to be able to interact with all our fans that closely.
But I would say the disadvantage is the fact that, I think, sometimes it’s harder to sell records. People have everything so accessible, so I think the link that’s going to bridge the gap between selling records and really developing a great career is touring, because that’s where you’re gonna go out and shake hands, and you’re gonna really meet all your fans. They love to see that. They love to know that you’re out there working hard and you take the time to come talk to them. I think that’s where things really matter and make a difference.
Speaking of that, you’re out on the “Generation Doom” tour with Otep and a bunch of great bands. How has it been going so far?
It’s going great. The shows are awesome. Fans are extremely responsive. They’re coming out whether it’s a Monday or Tuesday, or a Friday or Saturday. They’re showing up, and they’re spending their hard-earned money on tickets and merch. It’s a great time. It’s amazing to be able to travel the country and show up in any given city at any given time and there’s a line of people out there waiting to see the show, waiting to see all these bands. That’s why we’re out here doing what we do, and that’s why we’re blessed enough to do that, because of all the fan support. It’s been going great—great turnout, bands are awesome. We’re excited to keep it going. I think we have another four or five weeks.
How would you describe the Through Fire live show?
Absolutely dominant. (laughs) We just bring it. We try and leave every ounce of energy that we can give on stage every night. For us, we really pride ourselves on trying to be the best live band possible, because in my opinion at least, when you listen to a record, that’s great—it has great songs, you really connect with the music—but what separates that experience from a live show is being able to visually connect with something aside from just hearing the music. We like to get up there and surprise attack people. Sometimes they don’t know what to expect. We like to slam hard and throw our fists in the air. It’s a rock show.
Like you said, four or five weeks left on this tour. There’s nothing announced after that yet, but are you gonna be on the road through the summer and the rest of the year?
Yeah, the plan is definitely to stay out on the road as long as possible. We have a couple potential options right now, so once we confirm our tour plans, we’ll definitely make an announcement on our webpage, which is throughfiremusic.com, and then, of course, all our social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We’re gonna definitely stay busy, so anyone that wants to see us, keep checking our social media.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just thank you. Thank you so much. This wouldn’t be possible without you and without all the fans. We just want everyone to know that we’re working hard, and we can’t wait to be in a city near you.